For zero tolerance policy against rape of women and minors, beef up both judiciary and police
The need for initiating legal and judicial reforms to tackle the rising number of sexual offences against women and children appears to have dawned on the establishment, with both the government and Supreme Court taking firm steps in that direction. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi has sought a report seeking to know the status of child rape cases lodged in the first six months of the year, time taken to file chargesheets, and case pendency in court.
The Centre is planning to release Rs 474 crore from the Nirbhaya Fund for setting up 1,023 fast track courts in 18 states for rape trials. Meanwhile, the government also signalled its intent to act tough on child pornography through amendments to the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act. Taken together these measures to improve monitoring of cases and ramp up judicial infrastructure can lead to faster disposal of cases.
It is the delay in deciding cases that creates impunity in the minds of the rapist. Conversely, surety of securing punishment in quick time creates deterrence. However, the provision of death penalty for child rapists can undermine our progress towards making children safer through faster disposal of cases because it acts as a perverse incentive to kill the victims to destroy evidence.
From January to June, over 24,000 FIRs on incidents of child rape were lodged but chargesheets filed in only 50% of these cases. Trial has commenced in only half of these chargesheets — nearly 6,500 — and verdicts have been reached in just 911 cases. There is no reason for police chargesheets to drag over 90 days and trials more than two months unless the police, courts and forensic labs are overstretched by heavy pendency of cases. So it is not just the judiciary, but also the police infrastructure that needs beefing up for a holistic solution.